|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Groups & Solo Artists|
Daryl Braithwaite (vocals)
Ray Ferguson (guitar, vocals)
Mick Parker (bass, flute)
Dave Taylor (drums?)
Brent Thurlow (organ)
Rob Toth (keyboards)
Greg Wilder (drums)
Bruce Worrall (bass)
Originally known as Expression, this Sydney band is notable for two main reasons -- they recorded a fine cover of "Nights In White Satin" which was a hit in Sydney in early 1970, and they are one of several Sydney groups whose histories converge on the formation of 70s pop icons Sherbet. Samael Lilith played in around the city, performing at dances, discotheques and concerts.
They were a highly proficient outfit, who were inspired by the burgeoning psychedelic/progressive rock style, and their booking card described them as "the sound of cool underground". The band took its name from Jewish mythology -- Samael was a powerful demon, and his consort Lilith was a female vampire, a fearsome night monster said to haunt wilderness regions and ride storms. Hebrew rabbinical texts named Lilith as the first wife of Adam, and in this guise she is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah and also appears as a character in Goethe's Faust.
Samael Lilith was one of a string of promising Sydney bands who recorded for renowned independent producer Martin Erdman and his independent Du Monde label, and their principal claim to fame these days is their only single, a strong cover of The Moody Blues' "Nights In White Satin". Producer Martin Erdman recalled that he was "blown out" by the group's original demo, and it's interesting to note that he had not heard the Moody Blues original recording when he cut the single -- in fact he made a habit of avoiding listening to 'origianls' when cutting cover versions -- so he did not pick up the small errors in vocalist Ray Ferguson's performance of the lyrics. However, there's no doubt about Erdman's extraordinary skills as a producer and engineer -- he recorded the basic tracks at his World of Sound studio, using two Revox two-track tape recorders -- which meant "lots of 'mix-downs' and careful planning". The string arrangement by composer-arranger John Egginton was overdubbed at Festival Studio in Pyrmont.
The single was originally distributed by RCA and then re-released on the familiar orange Du Monde label, distributed by Festival. The original 'gold label' edition is notable for the fact that it features the band's pentagram logo on the centre of the label. When first released in February 1970 it was placed on heavy rotation on Sydney pop stations and it soon became a Top 20 hit, peaking at #14 during March 1970; the band's photo was also featured on the covers of both the 2UW and 2UE Top 40 charts that month. Unfortunately, from the late 1950s until well into the 1970s, the parochial nature of Australian capital-city radio meant that tracks which became major hits in Sydney were often not played at all in other cities (and vice versa), and as a result the Samael Lilith single made no impression whatsoever in other states.
Samael Lilith went through frequent changes of memberhip, so there were conflicting accounts as to who was in the group at the time the single was recorded.The booklet that accompanies Martin Erdman's 4-CD set The Du Monde Years gives the lineup as Ferguson, Ken Elliot, Ian Chambers and Dave Taylor, but Ian McFarlane's Encyclopedia gives the lineup as Mick Parker, (bass and flute), Ray Ferguson (guitar, vocal), Brent Thurlow (organ) and Greg Wilder (drums), and former member Mick Parker has recently confirmed for us that the lineup cited by Ian (Parker, Ferguson, Thurlow, Wilder) is correct.
Several former Samael Lilith members went on to notable careers. Organist Rob Toth subsequently joined Flake and Ray Ferguson joined Stonehenge. The best-known for member of the group was of course Daryl Braithwaite. He and bassist Bruce Worrall left another Sydney band House of Bricks and joined Samael Lilith in early 1970, some months after the single was released. Mick Parker joined Galadriel at the same time. Daryl and Bruce only lasted a few months due to lack of work in Lilith and left to join Sherbet. House of Bricks competed in the 1969 2SM Pepsi Pop Poll concert (where they came second to Mario Millo's band The Clik). The other two members of House of Bricks, guitarist Garry Adams and drummer Doug Bligh, went on to form cult progressive rock band, Galadriel, which ex Samael Lilith bassist Mick Parker joined in early 1970.
Samael Lilith's version of "Nights In White Satin" is still highly regarded and it has been included on several anthology Albums including Unforgotten Hits (1971), 15 Australian Superstars and the 3-CD version of Glenn A. Baker's definitive collection So You Wanna Be A rock'n'Roll Star?.
Mick Parker joined Jell Ellif for a few months after leaving Galadriel and
finished up Flute studies at the Sydney Conservatorium when his Flute
teacher Peter Richardson died. Moving to Coffs Harbour, he formed small
acoustic based bands which included Andrew Gray and John Carroll, the former 2SM DJ. He
toured regional NSW on a bus (wood stove and chimney) with busking
trio. In 1976 he moved to Adelaide and was partly responsible for the
rise in busking and the headline making confrontation with Adelaide
Council over busking. He also recorded with No Thongs, an original rock
band, and Neil Dreamer & The Nightmares, a busking band.
Mick returned to Coffs Harbour / Bellingen and joined The Tallowood Bush Band in 1980 its still going. Tallowood has backed Rolf Harris, Ted Bullpit and Wendy Harmer. Tallowood have four CDs, the last one features Russell Crowe on the backing vocals. Tallowood are trying to survive till their 30th annivesary at least. This is not easy as two of their fiddle players and a piano player have passed away -- Ray Shleifel, who played with Pixie Jenkins on the fiddler albums, was one of the
deceased fiddlers. Mick is also an animator and DVD producer and has animated ads and Medieval DVD's circulating locally and overseas.
"Nights In White Satin" / Sitting In The Park" (Du Monde SDM-310)
#14, Sydney (March 1970)
Originally Issued with gold label (distributed by RCA) then reissued as Du Monde DMK-4863, orange label (distributed by Festival)
Produced by Martin Erdman; strings arranged and conducted by John Egginton.
References / Links
Many thanks to Mick Parker for additional information.
Glenn A. Baker
liner notes for So You Wanna Be A Rock'n'Roll Star? 3-CD edition (Festival Records, 1998, D89931 CD)
Notes and CD-ROM from The Du Monde Years (Du Monde records 2004) limited edition 4CD set
Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999
Spencer, Chris, Zbig Nowara & Paul McHenry
Who's Who of Australian Rock (Five Mile Press, 2002)